Bad American

A little-known factoid about me: I’ve never voted.  Never, as in not once in my entire life.

Now this didn’t start out as an intentional thing.  I turned 18 at the very end of 1993.  Clinton had just been elected the previous year, so there wasn’t going to be another election until 1996.

But in 1996, I was homeless, living in a homeless shelter in Joliet.  Because I had no “fixed address,” I couldn’t register to vote.  Simple.

By the time the next election came along in 2000, I simply hadn’t gotten my registration information back in time to vote.  Not that it would have mattered anyway; that election was rigged to begin with.

By 2004, we were already living in the UK.  And while it was possible for me to get a mail-in ballot out here, I didn’t see the point.  I didn’t want either of the candidates to win, so I was fucked either way.

And here we are again.  Another election, and another year when I’m not going to bother going through the trouble of voting.  For one thing, the election in 2000 proved to me that my vote doesn’t really count anyway.  If the individual’s vote really counted, then we would have had a President Gore.  (And personally, I think the U.S. would have been a hell of a lot better off if we had.)

For another, I’m back in the position of not wanting either side to win.  Had Hillary gotten the democratic nomination, I honestly would have considered going through the trouble of getting a mail-in ballot.  But she didn’t, and now I’m stuck contemplating two candidates that I would never, in a million years, choose to run a country.  This, for a lot of little individual reasons.  McCain I honestly just don’t like, period.  Everything about him rubs me the wrong way.  Obama because while I agree with some of the things he’s come out with, the things I disagree on are too important to me to compromise on (Obama: addressing the “role” of “obesity” in healthcare??  RED FLAG!!!).

And I know that some people would say that my deliberately NOT voting automatically makes me a “bad” American.

Why?

Why is exercising my right to choose considered bad?  I could understand if there was one candidate that I really wanted to elect and I didn’t vote (assuming my vote actually counted for something).  That wouldn’t just be bad, that would be downright stupid.

But when I KNOW that, no matter who gets elected, it’s going to make me more determined never to go back and live in my home country, the country of my birth, the country that so much of my heart still lives in, then why would I spend my time and energy to vote for one of these people?  If you were in prison and you got to choose the warden, wouldn’t you choose one that made your life a little bit easier, happier, better?

But it doesn’t really matter whether I vote or not.  America isn’t the democracy it’s fooled itself to believe it is.  It’s a Republic – a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president (taken from here).  The fact is, it’s the upper class that holds all the power, and we’re placated with our “right” to vote.  Don’t believe me?  Go learn how the electoral college is set up, and then get back to me.

So if my choosing not to vote makes me a Bad American, so be it.  Honestly?  I’d rather be a Bad American than a hypocrite any day.  Voting for someone whom I truly don’t wish to be elected would, in fact, make me a hypocrite.

(I should credit Vesta44 and Big Fat Dynamo for inspiring this post.  It was after reading theirs that I got to thinking.  Dangerous, I know.  😉 )

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Stephen Fry, HIV, and Bipolar Disorder

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

I would like to preface this by saying that I realize that some of this may not be “news” to some people. I purposely stay away from the news as much as possible. Honestly? It’s because I’m depressed enough as it is and I don’t need more to bring me down. So I would have absolutely no idea if some of the things that shocked me have been reported by the media. Please keep that in mind as you read.

I have to admit I have a thing for Stephen Fry. Not only is he ridiculously intelligent, but he’s funny, and handsome* to boot. I admit I was more than a little disappointed when I realized he was gay (honestly, I thought he was just stereotypically British, not gay). I’ve been working on a crochet project and I prefer to have some sort of “background noise” – television, a movie, that sort of thing. So I’ve been periodically sitting here at the computer desk, playing YouTube vids. Eventually I surfed my way into some Stephen Fry territory, and found the documentaries he made on HIV and Bipolar Disorder.

I missed these when they were originally aired.  I don’t watch all that much television any more, and what little I DO watch is rarely, if ever, BBC.  Had I known about these at the time, I probably would have wanted to watch them, though.

Stephen Fry: HIV and Me

I originally thought that the HIV documentaries (part one and part two) were just going to be about his experiences with HIV as a gay man.  Because of course, a person’s life experiences are going to color their view of any major event.  A gay man’s experience of HIV is going to be different than a mother’s, etcetera.  What I saw shocked me.

  • The levels of infection in Britain have risen by something like 400% in the last ten years.  (I could be remembering wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Fry said in the documentary.)  There are more people with HIV living in Britain than there were 10 years ago.
  • A large percentage of the population are having unprotected, risky sex – gay, straight, and everything in between.  Fry went out to the bars and clubs in one particular city and found that the majority of women would ask that their partner wear a condom, but most of the men would refuse, even when asked.
  • There are large numbers of young gay men purposely going to sex parties to become infected.  They call it “the Gift“.  (See another good clip about it here.)  One interviewee goes into great detail, explaining how these parties work.  I try my hardest not to be judgemental as a rule, but I have to admit that hearing about these parties made my stomach turn.  Not from the thought of gay sex; from the perspective of why in the hell would somebody want to go out and get themselves infected with HIV ON PURPOSE??? While science and medicine have made it easier to live with, and not such a quickly killing disease, HIV is still deadly.  Why would you want to subject yourself to that?  If you’ve got a death wish, there are other, quicker, and less painful ways of killing yourself!
  • There are African goverments that won’t allow certain types of medications for HIV/Aids because they actually don’t believe that Aids is caused by HIV.  They have huge numbers (one statistic I remember hearing was 300,000+ deaths in one year attributed to Aids alone) of people dying from this disease, people who could live longer, healthier lives if given these medications, and they’re being denied them by their own governments.
  • Also, because some parts of Africa are very Catholic, promoting the use of condoms to help prevent the spread of Aids is actually seen as taboo; abstinence only.  There is one interviewee that has made it his mission in life to educate his people about the truth of Aids and to try to help prevent the spread.  So he took it upon himself to start distributing free condoms to the men in the area.  Because of The Church, he is only allowed to distribute a fraction of what he was handing out just a few years ago.
  • While the panic surrounding Aids might have died down a little bit, the numbers are ever-increasing.  People are constantly putting themselves at risk, thinking it could never happen to them.  Society has become complacent with the idea of Aids and is reaping terrible consequences.
  • I wasn’t alone in mistakenly thinking that the Aids epidemic was getting better.  Because these things aren’t reported as often as they were 10, 20 years ago, people are coming to the assumption that things are better.  When that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
  • There is still a social stigma surrounding Aids, and some of the fallacies that took root 20 years ago are still being spread as fact.  There’s a part about a 60-something-year-old woman who is very vocal about her status and has been harassed several times because of it.  Fry says in the documentary that he would have thought that being open about one’s HIV status would garner sympathy and kindness, not hatred.  So would I.  But apparently we were both wrong.

I’m still reeling in a state of shock over the HIV & Me documentaries.  Some parts made me sad, some parts made me angry, and some parts just made me sick to my stomach.  But I honestly think that this is something everybody should watch.  It’s illuminating, if nothing else.  And I think it’s something people should talk about more.  Because we’ve stopped talking about it, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it’s something that’s going away.  It’s not; and it’s not going to until we are honest with ourselves.

The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive

The first time I had an inkling that Stephen Fry had Bipolar Disorder was when I had gone to a doctor’s appointment.  While giving my name to the receptionist, I noticed a little pamphlet on Bipolar Disorder and there was a picture of Stephen Fry on the front of it.  I took one to look at as I waited, and it was one of those “don’t be ashamed!  See your doctor if you think something’s wrong!” kind of things.  Nowhere on there did it actually say that Stephen Fry had Bipolar Disorder, but I thought, “why would they plaster his picture on here if he didn’t have it?”

Then I heard about The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive (see them here and here).  I had missed them when they were originally aired, and I couldn’t seem to find a copy on DVD.  On top of that, we couldn’t find a copy to download.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find it on YouTube, in its entirety no less.

As a Manic Depressive myself, I was quite interested to see what Fry had to say on the subject.  And I was shocked to find out how many celebrities there are that have some sort of “mental illness”.  I was disappointed to see that they never mentioned the link between Bipolar Disorder and brain chemicals.  When I was diagnosed, my doctor explained to me that my Bipolar was caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain; the medication would help with that (and it did, I admit).  I “manage” it all right on my own, but I have to admit that the medication really did help.  I no longer take medication for one basic reason: side effects.  I am naturally the kind of person with little to no energy, and every drug I’ve tried so far would make me even more tired.  With the exception of Prozac; that made me LITERALLY bounce off the walls.

What surprised me was the amount of fear attached to the condition – on the part of the sufferers.  A lot of us fear being seen as a “loon”, to the point of avoiding treatment.  Which, as you can imagine, makes things worse, not better.

It made me realize something, though: while there’s no doubt that I AM a Manic Depressive (/have Bipolar Disorder), I definitely have a “milder” case of it than some people do.  My manic episodes were never as dramatic as what some of the people on there have described.  However, for ME they WERE definitely Manic.

I was a little surprised to hear the one doctor say that going off Lithium (which is the first drug I was ever on) could be disastrous.  Other than the fact that my mood swings came back, I can’t say that my depression was any worse than it would have been had I never had treatment.  And it just so happens that that particular period in my life also happened to be one of the most difficult (I became homeless; had to live in a homeless shelter [just like the ones you see portrayed on television], Number One Daughter became very ill [croup], I met and became engaged to The Little Helper’s sperm donor, and he turned out to be an addict AND abusive).  So you would think that I would have become immobilizingly depressed during that time.  I didn’t.  I can’t say that I was happy, but it felt just like every other depression I’d suffered through before.

And I’m kind of in a quandry about this question surrounding diagnosing children and teenagers with the condition.  On the one hand, I have my own experience: I was diagnosed at 15, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I finally had an answer to WHY I was different, and was given tools to help me deal with it.  On the other hand, I have absolutely NO DOUBT that there are scores of children being misdiagnosed, or diagnosed without REAL cause.  So I can’t really say where I stand on that issue, because I really don’t know myself.  I can vividly see both sides of the argument, and they’re both valid.

I’m a jumble of emotions after watching these.  On the one hand, I’m infinitely grateful that these documentaries were made.  They NEEDED to be made, and now that I’ve seen them, I can’t think of a better person than Stephen Fry to do them.  He approaches the subject with respect and compassion without ever hiding the fact that he wants to learn.  On the other, I’ve seen some things that have shocked and disgusted me.  But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s a small price to pay.

* – Stephen Fry is EXACTLY the kind of man that makes my head turn.  As a matter of fact, he reminds me of my high school sweetheart, and I’ve ALWAYS thought he was good looking.

Fat Positive thoughts in the oddest places.

What do YOU see?

What do YOU see?

I just got on the desktop computer* and opened up a webpage, which is set to iGoogle under my username.  I have it set to “random themes” and I get a different one every day.  This is one part of what came up today.

At first, I just looked at the colors and thought “oooh!  I like that one!”  But then I looked at it a little closer.

I do believe that this is just supposed to be some abstract pattern, but when I looked at this one part that I’ve sectioned off for you to see, what do you think my brain saw?

A beautiful fat body, that’s what.

Now what’s so strange about that, you might ask?  Of course I’m going to tell you, that’s the whole point of this post!  🙂

You have to remember that I’m still fairly new to FA.  It hasn’t even been a year yet since I read my first FA post.  The change in me has been fairly slow, in terms of that <year.  However, when you consider the entirety of my life, it’s been fairly quick.  Especially when the changes in me go unnoticed until one day, it jumps up and slaps me in the face.  Like today.

I, like probably most fat people, internalized the fatphobia just as good as the next person.  Oh yeah, I didn’t just hate myself, I hated fat in general.  Of course there were always fat people that I saw and looked at and thought “wow… s/he’s fat AND beautiful” but I have to admit that it was very few and far between.  For the most part, the internalized fatphobia dominated my thinking.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve gone out of my way to try and change that thinking.  Not for anyone else, but for me.  I didn’t want to think that way about anyone, including myself.  But it was only today, when I saw that design on my iGoogle page, that I realized just how far I’ve come.

Never before finding FA would I have been able to actually think the words “beautiful fat body.”  I might not have reacted to a fat body with disdain or contempt, but those three words would have eluded me no matter what I did.  But today, I see that, and I am immediately overcome with an image of a beautiful fat woman, all roundness and curves and sensuality.

The whole thing.

The whole thing.

I realize that you might look at it and see nothing.  Or you might look at it and see a beautiful fat man instead of a woman.

But you know what?  I like the fact that I saw a beautiful fat woman.  I’m glad.  When I realized the change in my thinking, I smiled and got the warm fuzzies inside.

🙂

* – we have 3 computers here at home.  The desktop is commonly referred to as “Daddy’s” computer, the laptop is mine and mine alone, and the other computer is The Little Helper’s.  Lately, though, Daddy’s been spending a lot of time in the bedroom on my laptop, so I’ve been using “his” computer almost exclusively.